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Panthers nearly top Prescott

Because of cancellations, the St. Croix Central wrestling schedule is back-loaded with Middle Border Conference matches.

The Panthers have four of their seven MBC matches in the final two weeks of January. The first of those, and likely their best shot at another MBC win came when the Panthers hosted Prescott Thursday, Jan. 18. The match came down to a couple pivotal bouts, which Prescott won, to pull out a 43-33 win over the Panthers.

The night began with a move that didn't please the Panthers. The match started at 220 pounds. Fans were expecting a bout between two of the best wrestlers in the MBC at 195 pounds between Central's Ryan Larson and Prescott's Ty Sanford. Prescott dodged Larson, moving Sanford up to face Central's Oliver Olsen, with Sanford winning by pin.

"That was the match everyone was paying to see," Central coach Brad Holzer said of the possible Larson-Sanford clash. "Those are the matches those kids need to get ready for sectionals, for state."

Prescott built a 21-0 lead before the Panthers started to come back. The Panthers used a pair of forfeits, along with a pin from Tadan Holzer at 126, to cut the margin to 21-18. The Panthers then tied the score when Frank Holter came through with an overtime victory at 138 pounds.

"Frank had a gutsy performance with his (injured) shoulder," Coach Holzer said.

That was Central's only share of the lead. Prescott won three of the next four matches to regain the lead. Central's only win in that stretch was a pin by senior George Vondriska at 160 pounds.

On Saturday, the Panthers competed at Arcadia in the annual Raider Challenge. This is a scramble format tournament, but the Panthers were without their most experienced wrestlers on Saturday. Larson and Holter were held out to rest injuries and Vondriska was ill and wasn't able to go. Vondriska had some of the best possibilities for Saturday, going in as a third seed.

Oliver Olsen was the Panthers' top finisher in the tournament, taking fourth place at 220 pounds. In terms of wins, Berends was the most successful Panther in the tournament. He lost his opening match at 285, before stringing together four straight wins to place ninth.

The strength of the weight classes varied greatly in this tournament. The strongest class was likely at 126 pounds. Central's Taden Holzer went in with a 16-8 record and was the eighth seed. There were four former state qualifiers in the bracket. Holzer placed eighth.

The Panthers face a demanding final stretch in their regular season schedule. They were scheduled to wrestle at Ellsworth on Tuesday. And that's just the start of it. They will wrestle at Somerset on Thursday before completing their MBC schedule in a makeup match next Tuesday at Osceola.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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